Faculty partner proposed TAR projects

These are projects submitted by UBC faculty, looking for a TAR intern to work on a specific challenge to student learning in a STEM classroom.

Name
Francis Jones
Departmental affiliation
Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences
Email
fjones@eoas.ubc.ca
Phone
(604) 822-2138
Venue or course(s) for your TAR project
EOSC114 "Natural Hazards", a general science course open to all students for "science" credit.
Big goal of this TAR project
Scale up "scientific reasoning" in a very large 1st yr general science course at the same time as enhancing motivation and student "ownership" of the learning.
Is this project part of a larger scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) project?
  • Yes
What is a challenge that could be addressed in this TAR project to improve student learning?
It is difficult to introduce learning tasks that involve higher level thinking but which can be efficiently assessed with 1000+ students. In addition, we must target both face to face and distance education since the course is taught in two f2f sections each term and one DE section each term.
What intervention, activity, or support materials could you and your TAR intern develop to help students with this challenge?
We want to develop a group-based, peer-assessed project involving geoscience "inquiry". NOTE this will be attempted between May
2017 and May 2018, but having a TAR intern would be an awesome opportunity both for the intern and the project. But we have to work on this now while the Large TLEF project is funded.
How would you assess if the TAR project affects student learning? What are measures beyond comparing student grades?
a) evaluate "engagement with" and "enthusiasm for" the task (several instruments and strategies); b) add "structured comparison" and "argument" tasks both as part of the project itself and as associated questions in midterms and the final exam. c) compare the sophistication of tasks students do now with tasks they did in earlier versions of the course.
Additional comments
- This project is part of a large TLEF project funded between 2016 and 2018. Search for the PI "Sara Harris" on the TLEF pagehttp://tlef.ubc.ca/previously-funded-proposals/2017-2018/
- We do have funding for a GAA, equivalent to one full TA-ship. i.e. something like 10-12hrs / week for 4 months.
- There are plenty of project details for this proposed TAR project and the larger TLEF project, of which this TAR proposal is a small part. Please contact me by return email for additional details.
- the TLEF principle investigator is Sara Harris, but I am actually carrying out the project. My "specs" are at https://www.eoas.ubc.ca/people/francisjones

Name
James Charbonneau
Departmental affiliation
Physics and Astronomy
Email
james@phas.ubc.ca
Phone
(604) 827-2378
Venue or course(s) for your TAR project
Science One Program
Big goal of this TAR project
To document and increase student awareness of conceptual connections between science disciplines in Science One.
Is this project part of a larger scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) project?
  • Yes
What is a challenge that could be addressed in this TAR project to improve student learning?
Science One is a first year interdisciplinary program at UBC that consists of biology, chemistry, math and physics, with a bit of computer science. One of the challenges of an interdisciplinary program like this is providing sufficient overlap between the disciplines to provide an interdisciplinary education, while battling the traditional content and philosophical constraints required to fully prepare a student for an honours degree in any single discipline. Even in a program like Science One where we focus in interdisciplinary, we still see that students have a tendency to organize knowledge into disciplinary silos.
What intervention, activity, or support materials could you and your TAR intern develop to help students with this challenge?
The TAR intern would help develop a weekly activity that gives students the opportunity to reflect on the course and make meaningful connections. By meaningful, we mean more that simply recognizing that one topic in one discipline is taught in another discipline, which is fairly low on the Bloom taxonomy, but recognizing that the way a concept is applied in one discipline, though it might look different, is identical to how the concept is applied in another discipline. The reflection activity would also give us a “real time” assessment of their interdisciplinary thinking, in contrast to other pre/post instruments that give us a picture of how students changed over the entire program.
How would you assess if the TAR project affects student learning? What are measures beyond comparing student grades?
There are three potential ways of measuring the whether or not the reflection activity affected student learning.

The first two involve using survey instruments designed by the PIs (James Charbonneau and Chis Addison) of this project. The first instrument in an attitude survey that measures how students perceive the benefit of one discipline when learning concepts of another (i.e. is physics useful for learning biology). The second instrument is a card sorting tool that measures students’ how students group concepts in an interdisciplinary or disciplinary manner. Both of these instruments have already been administered to Science One, so controls pre intervention are available. This project can been seen as an extension of the development of these two instruments.

The third method is somewhat more ambitious. In their second semester Science One students complete a large final measurement/modelling project, and write up a report on it. The topic the students choose often fits squarely within a single discipline, the students get chosen a disciplinary mentor from the Science One faculty, and as a result, the reports end up being fairly disciplinary. For instance, a previous investigation found that statistical methods learned in physics lab are not used in biology projects, even though they apply. The final measure would be to see if the intervention affects the interdisciplinary seen in the final project reports. This task would involve coding past reports and present reports to see if there was any change.

Additional comments
Though the PI field doesn’t allow two names, this project will involve working in equal capacity with both James Charbonneau from the department of Physics and Astronomy and Chris Addison form the Department of Chemistry.

This project is part of a larger research program being run by James Charbonneau and Chris Addison to measure and probe interdisciplinary thinking. The development of interdisciplinary reflection activities can been seen as an extension of the work we've done to develop instruments that measure interdisciplinary thinking.

Name
Paul Pickell
Departmental affiliation
Forest Resources Management
Email
paul.pickell@forestry.ubc.ca
Phone
(604) 822-2236
Venue or course(s) for your TAR project
CONS 340 "Introduction to Geographic Information Systems for Forestry and Conservation"
Big goal of this TAR project
Enhance the integration of theory and practice in introductory GIS courses
Is this project part of a larger scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) project?
  • No
What is a challenge that could be addressed in this TAR project to improve student learning?
A primary challenge associated with teaching this introductory course is that there is a steep learning curve for the GIS software. As a result, students spend most of their time troubleshooting software-related technical issues rather than going deeper into the analytical and reasoning learning objectives of the course. At points in the lab, some students are not able to answer basic questions about what they are analyzing using the GIS software (e.g., mapping species habitat suitability or a capable place to go skiing). In addition, the class is very diverse ranging from first year undergraduates to master's students and spanning multiple faculties because CONS 340 is the only GIS course offered in Forestry and one of the few offered at UBC.

This TAR project proposes to develop new lab-based instruction and assessment materials that are oriented towards diverse learners and answers the question "how can we integrate GIS software and theory in lab instruction?"

What intervention, activity, or support materials could you and your TAR intern develop to help students with this challenge?
The TAR intern will be tasked with reviewing the current laboratory topics and materials to identify how lab instruction can be integrated with the theoretical and conceptual topics of GIS. Initially, the structure of lab instructions (step-by-step) and the deliverables of labs (maps, answers to questions) will be the primary focus of the intern. The intern will identify new assessment measures (e.g., iClicker, quizzes, computer-based exams), active learning assignments (e.g., in-class exercises, group work, final projects, current events, online blogging), and lab deliverables (e.g., reports, maps, databases, schemata workflows) that are suitable for reinforcing the relationship of theory and practice in GIS.
How would you assess if the TAR project affects student learning? What are measures beyond comparing student grades?
Student feedback has largely driven the process to-date. Students have consistently identified the GIS software as the most challenging part of the course. We will solicit student feedback at least twice during the course (midterm and final exams), but possibly following each lab exercise. Each survey will include a set of Likert response scales of agreement (1=strongly disagree, 2=disagree, 3=neutral, 4=agree, 5=strongly agree) that are designed to test the effectiveness of: (1) instruction clarity; (2) support from professor and teaching assistants; (3) lab materials for meeting lecture-related learning objectives; and (4) lecture materials for meeting lab-related learning objectives.

Name
Kim Dill-McFarland
Departmental affiliation
Microbiology and Immunology
Email
kdillmcfarland@gmail.com
Phone
(604) 827-3420
Venue or course(s) for your TAR project
MICB301, MICB405, MICB421, MICB425
Big goal of this TAR project
Integrate data science modules into microbiology courses
Is this project part of a larger scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) project?
  • Yes
What is a challenge that could be addressed in this TAR project to improve student learning?
Data science skills, including working with large datasets, coding, and statistics, are increasingly needed in the biological sciences and related careers. However, undergraduate biology programs struggle to integrate these concepts as students lack foundational knowledge in these areas and are unmotivated to take non-required courses in other departments like computer science or statistics. Therefore, the Experiential Data Science for Undergraduate Cross-disciplinary Education (EDUCE) initiative seeks to develop a uniform experiential learning framework that is cross-disciplinary and collaborative to equip undergraduate students in the life sciences with basic competency and literacy in data science.
What intervention, activity, or support materials could you and your TAR intern develop to help students with this challenge?
The TAR intern would help develop new data science modules for use in third and fourth year microbiology courses. Modules range from a single 1-hour class session to long-term projects implemented across a term to independent workshops outside of class. We are open to module ideas and welcome innovative teaching methods! The goal is for modules to be applicable (or easily customizable) to multiple courses so that life science undergraduates receive the same data science training regardless of their exact course progression or specific major.

NOTE: As part of the larger TLEF initiative, implementation of modules will begin in Fall 2017 for MICB301 and 405 and in Winter 2018 for MICB421 and 425. However, development and assessment will be a continuous process so we welcome a TAR intern at any point!

How would you assess if the TAR project affects student learning? What are measures beyond comparing student grades?
Pre- and post-surveys will be employed to assess student interest in data science topics and intentions to pursue related courses, workshops, etc. in the future. Students will be tracked across EDUCE module progression in several courses as well as outside activities like workshops. The exact nature of this data is unknown at this time as we are currently in discussions with the Office of Research Ethics.
Additional comments
This TAR project is part of the Experiential Data Science for Undergraduate Cross-disciplinary Education (EDUCE) initiative (search ‘EDUCE’ at http://tlef.ubc.ca/previously-funded-proposals/2017-2018/). Dr. Steven Hallam (Microbiology) is the principle investigator and I am the postdoctoral teaching and learning fellow on EDUCE.

While we have our own goals and questions, we welcome interested TAR interns to develop independent questions within the larger scope of EDUCE. We are happy to provide additional information on EDUCE and the current program plans so please don’t hesitate to contact us with questions.